Categorized | Personal Development

Learning to Be a More Effective Listener


Cultivating the art of good listening is essential if we are ever to enjoy meaningful and effective communication with others. Sincerely taking the time to reflect upon what someone is telling you and sincerely seeking to understand their message is critical.

It is actually quite shocking how many individuals think they are listening to what someone is saying, when in fact they are just using the person’s words to launch their own opinions. This often gives rise to misunderstandings and even fights.

The sad truth is, most of us picked up horrible listening habits in our earlier years, and we haven’t learned an effective strategy for breaking these bad, relationship compromising habits. Here are some of the things that most of us do habitually:

* We let the other person go on talking while we just “blank out” and think about our own agendas.

* We become easily distracted and break our attention at the sign of any little external thing.

* We start judging what the person is saying, running their words through our own filters and only thinking about how we’re going to respond.

* We assume that we “know where the person is going with this” and simply interrupt them for the sake of saving time.

* We process what the person is saying in terms of whether or not we agree with it, instead of truly seeking to understand where the speaker is coming from.

* We allow our own personal anxiety to draw us to irrational conclusions about what is being said, often putting ourselves in a defensive stance even though what the person is saying does not warrant such behavior.

* We simply become impatient and just want to butt in and talk.

If any of these apply to you, you are not alone. These are without question the most common reasons for a gross lack of understanding when it comes to the way we communicate with each other. The first step to changing these habits is to simply become aware of them. Be honest with yourself. After you’ve become aware that you do these things, there are a few steps you can take to begin the process of becoming a better listener.

1. Apply good old self-discipline. Make the most concerted possible effort you can to stay focused on the message that the speaker is trying to relay to you. Avoid distractions to the very best of your ability.

2. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues the speaker is giving you. Pay attention to their eye contact, hand gestures, etc. and do your best to fully engage yourself in their world. You can even try mimicking their posture and tempo, as this will make you feel more connected to them, and vice-versa.

3. Don’t block out things you don’t want to hear. Process as much of what they are saying as you possibly can.

4. Don’t jump to conclusions. Avoid making assumptions about the speaker’s motives. Do NOT interrupt, even if they seem to be rambling. Just listen. Relax and listen.

5. Engage yourself in his or her world. When they have finished saying something, don’t interject with your own thoughts and opinions. Ask questions and encourage him or her to talk even more!

6. Instead of assuming you know what’s been said, if there could be more than one meaning, don’t hesitate to ask the speaker to clarify. This can go a long way toward preventing nasty disputes.

As with any new skill, effective listening takes time to master, but the payoffs are well worth the time and effort you invest. The joy you will get out of your relationships will soar to new heights. People will fall in love with you and think the world of you. And you might just find that you are being listened to a lot more yourself!

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